Ka Bel was finally laid to rest yesterday at the Angel of Meadows Memorial and Nature Park in Angat, Bulacan being escorted by thousands of workers and activists who marched from the House of Representatives up to Fairview.
The colors of the day were red and black, the colors of mourning and militancy. Ka Bel had passed away but his fight continues. Only his mortal body would be buried, not the principles he stood for.
Ka Bel was brought from the Philippine Independent Church to the House of Representatives at around 7am yesterday. The funeral convoy passed by the Mendiola Bridge, the protest center frequented by Ka Bel back when protests were regularly allowed on the bridge.
At the House of Representatives where Ka Bel served three terms under the Anakpawis partylist, a mass was held, attended by several members of the House. I could see from the gallery that the mass was celebrated by Fr. Joe Dizon, Fr. Charlie Ricafort, Fr. Rudy Abao and several others from the Diocese of Novaliches. Three days earlier, the Diocese of Albay gave an order banning any mass for Ka Bel because it was their “consensus” that he was not Catholic. The turnout of priests that day in Congress was perhaps an attempt to correct in no uncertain terms the serious error committed by the bishop of Albay.
In what was perhaps a first in Philippine history, the halls of the Batasang Pambansa reverberated with calls of “Ka Crispin Beltran, tuloy ang laban!” and “Uring manggagawa, hukbong mapagpalaya!”, chanted by nearly a thousand activists in red and black. Never before have such words been uttered in thunderous unison inside that “august chamber”. Of course, never before have the remains of a proletarian revolutionary been brought inside those halls of power. This time neither the security personnel nor the leaders of the House attempted to stop the multitudes gathered from shouting what their hearts felt.
The people had every right to shout. Their chants were tinged with anger and frustration over Congress’ failure to pass the P125 legislated wage hike which Ka Bel had fought for since 2001. Ka Bel had died not seeing the passing of the wage hike bill. Now Ka Bel’s remains laid there on the same House floor where the P125 wage hike bill was passed but later on killed by Rep. Crispin (what irony) Remulla, on the basis of a mere technicality.
During the necrological services of the House, immediate family members of Ka Bel were called up to the Speakers podium to receive mementos left behind by their father. And in another historic first, the entire family including Ka Osang, Ka Bel’s widow, standing at the podium, faced the crowd, raised their clenched fists, with the giant Philippine flag as their backdrop as Speaker Prospero Nograles stood there rather uncomfortably in the middle. The crowd got on their feet and applauded the Beltran family.
Outside Batasan, thousands eagerly awaited Ka Bel’s arrival.
A truck that would carry Ka Bel had been prepared, complete with floral arrangements, a big mural and “red guards” from different unions. We carried the remains of Ka Bel from up to the truck then we marched on to Fairview.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that 20,000 had joined the funeral march. Along the way, ordinary folk, drivers, vendors, residents, raised their clenched fists to signify solidarity with Ka Bel’s fight. It was the same scene everywhere we passed.
Upon reaching Fairview, we boarded our vehicles and traveled two hours to Angat. As we drove, people lined up in the streets to catch a last glimpse of Ka Bel’s coffin and to pay their respects to a hero of the working class. With raised fists, the people of Bulacan welcomed the funeral caravan.
When we finally reached the Angel of Meadows park, residents greeted us with streamers expressing condolences for Ka Bel. Somehow they felt what an honor it was to have such a great man buried in their place. At the memorial park, a huge sign was painted on the wall overlooking Ka Bel’s resting place. It read, in big, bold, red letters, “Ka Bel, Paalam”.
We carried Ka Bel’s coffin, draped by the Philippine and KMU flags, from the entrance of the park up to the designated burial site. Ka Bel would be brought to his final resting place not by the police nor funeral parlor personnel but by the leaders of the mass movement he faithfully served.
People cried in the final viewing of Ka Bel’s remains. His wife Ka Osang was grieving but she was not hysterical. She was composed, in the same way I had seen her before in the hospital room the day Ka Bel died. As I had written before, theirs was a love for the ages. I only have the deepest admiration for Ka Osang. One can only wish to experience even just half of the deep love for each other and commitment to a greater cause that Ka Bel and Ka Osang shared.
As the sun set, Ka Bel’s remains were lowered to the ground as people sang the Internationale. With raised fists we said a final goodbye to a friend and comrade.